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Victor Dlamini

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Podcast with Njabulo Ndebele: Live at the Cape Town Book Fair

Fine Lines from the BoxNjabulo NdebeleIt was my great pleasure to interview Njabulo Simakahle Ndebele about his latest book, Fine Lines from the Box (Umuzi) at the recent Cape Town Book Fair. I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity of sharing this wonderful conversation with you as a ‘live’ podcast, the second live podcast in my series of Literary Podcasts. I have no doubt that I’m not alone in regarding Ndebele as one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals. He is known for writing that always raises the bar, and each page of his writing sizzles with lexical gems that are anchored in deeply considered thought. Ndebele has held the position of Vice Chancellor at two universities in South Africa, and is the author of short stories, novels and essays that have been more influential on South African thought and imagination than, it can well be argued, any other single voice. Apart from Fine Lines from the Box, his books include the monumental Rediscovery of the Ordinary and Fools and Other Stories, and the post-modern fictional meditation on South African identity, The Cry of Winnie Mandela.

I recorded our conversation, and present it here as the latest Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast, along with the liveblogged report that BOOK SA’s Johannesburg editor, Liesl Jobson, filed after the conversation:

FoolsNjabulo NdebeleIn a riveting session that was a highlight of the Cape Town Book Fair, Victor Dlamini interviewed Njabulo Ndebele on the latter book of essays spanning two decades, Fine Lines from the Box. The venue was crammed with hardly space for a flea. The author has just finished his tenure as principal and vice-chancellor of UCT and will be taking a sabbatical soon at Bard College in New York, USA.

Dlamini tackled some of the issues in the book, which, he said, “Teases, provokes and gives one a sense of nuance. Where many social commentators use their commentary as a blunt instrument, he uses it like a brush, utilising so many colours of the palette.”

Rediscovery of the OrdinaryVictor Dlamini and Njabulo Ndebele Dlamini is a superb interviewer. His attention to detail and probing questions, his consummate engagement with the text and insightful analyses make him a not-to-be-missed event at any literary programme in the country.

For him, one of the most unforgettable moments as he read the book was Ndebele’s narration of unearthing the treasure trove of reading that lay hidden, literally, in a box his father kept in the garage. The box was stuffed full of literary contraband prohibited by the then apartheid government. “How much,” he asked, “do you see writing as something you both treasure and that is, in fact, part of our larger social treasure?”

Cry of Winnie MandelaNjabulo Ndebele Ndebele observed that he’d grown up in an environment of books and reading and writing. “It’s something I like to talk about, to mention upfront, because there is a stereotype about growing up in a township that is about poverty and deprivation. These things are there, but it’s to make the point that there are many other people in those environments who are doing all they can to rise from the trap. In the most unexpected paces in the township one finds a piano, a guitar, a musical instrument, books, a whole lot of things you don’t associate. I listened to the classical music my father played. And jazz.

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